Is it just us or can the Academy’s infatuation with The Artist be felt even in categories where the film isn’t nominated? Grant Orchard’s The Morning Stroll, about a chicken stopping a passerby on a city street dead in his tracks, first in a time when films were referred to as moving pictures, then in our present day, and finally in a post-apocalyptic tomorrow where zombies have come home to roost, is cute up to the point that its artistry adopts the very ADD it increasingly thumbs its nose at throughout. A sweeter, more quaint vision, Patrick Doyon’s Sunday is in essence also a study of human routine, only this one waxes nostalgic on the different world children and adults inhabit without a shred of condescension. Both Terence Davies and Bill Plympton would love it…and we know how many Oscars each of those filmmakers have.
The second of two nominated shorts from Canada, Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby’s Wild Life, the story of a prideful Englishman’s struggle to survive in the Canadian frontier in 1909, has a starkly minimalist look that gives it the feel of an imprint, a haunting from the past. Strictly for There Will Be Blood connoisseurs, this is unanimously our favorite short in the category, which these days translates to about a zero percent chance of victory.
Locked out of the Best Animated Feature category for the first time since it’s had a film eligible for a nomination, Pixar may be considered a sentimental favorite here, where it hasn’t won an Oscar since 2001’s For the Birds. Enrico Casarosa’s La Luna, which reminded me less of past Pixar films and more of Super Mario Galaxy for the Nintendo Wii, is a perfectly lovely doodle about an old man and his son instructing the youngest member of their clan on how to clean the moon of stars. But lovely simply won’t cut it in the end.
At least two of us found William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg’s The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore impossibly dull, but it’s easy to see why a third, upon seeing the short some eight months ago at a festival, pegged it as an Oscar winner. The initially perplexing story, inspired by Hurricane Katrina, concerns a Buster Keaton lookalike, after being swept up in a tornado straight out of The Wizard of Oz, finding his calling as a librarian in a strange land. The short, which employs 2D and computer animation as well as miniatures, practically tells the history of animation in 17 minutes, and like The Artist, its message appears to be one of remembrance—in this case, asking us to remember how cool it was when people used to read books. Somewhere, Oprah sheds a tear as she powers down her Kindle Fire.
Will Win: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Could Win: La Luna
Should Win: Wild Life